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Kanishka Nilaweera

Research Officer

Research Interests

Obesity is a significant economic and health issue as it increases the risk of development of several clinical conditions including diabetes. My research aims to determine how we gain weight, and develop obesity, and using this information, create dietary interventions that can reduce or reverse this process. To this end, we have explored how the diet affects the connection between the gut and its associated microbes, and the deeper internal tissues such as the adipose tissue (where fat is stored) and the brain, which together controls body weight. By feeding animals varied dietary nutrients that are generally consumed by humans such as milk associated casein and whey proteins, we have found that

(1) whey proteins reduce body weight gain and gut size and that this effect is mediated, at least in part, by the microbes in the gut (see Nychyk et al., 2021, Nilaweera et al., 2017, and McAllan et al., 2015),

(2) acting alongside this, there are mechanisms within the body that try to over-come the effects of the dietary intervention, by trying to increase gut size (see Nilaweera and Speakman, 2018). However, the effect of (1) seems to be more than (2), leading to reduced body size.

(3) dietary components when embedded in specific food matrices get protection from digestion during their gut transit and therefore can be delivered to specific locations to influence the activity of the gut and its associated microbes (see Gough et al., 2018).

This work is supported by internal and external grant funding [https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6074-9457] that drive a key project on “Whey proteins and Energy balance” [https://osf.io/g432n/] and also support work on another project on “Calorie restriction and Energy balance [Lead by: Prof. John R. Speakman; https://osf.io/9yath/].


1998-2002: Ph.D. Neuroscience, University of Aberdeen, UK.
1993-1998: BSc Upper Second Class (Division 1) Honours in Genetics, University of Aberdeen, UK.

  1. Oleksandr Nychyk, Wiley Barton, Agata M Rudolf, Serena Boscaini, Aaron Walsh, Thomaz F. S. Bastiaanssen, Linda Giblin, Paul Cormican, Liang Chen, Yolanda Piotrowicz, Davina Derous, Áine Fanning, Xiaofei Yin, Jim Grant, Silvia Melgar, Lorraine Brennan, Sharon E. Mitchell, John F. Cryan, Jun Wang, Paul D Cotter, John R. Speakman, Kanishka N. Nilaweera*. Protein quality and quantity influence the effect of dietary fat on weight gain and tissue partitioning via host-microbiota changes. Cell Rep. 2021 May 11;35(6):109093. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2021.109093.
  2. Nilaweera KN, Speakman JR. Regulation of intestinal growth in response to variations in energy supply and demand. Obes Rev. 2018 Dec;19 Suppl 1(Suppl Suppl 1):61-72. doi: 10.1111/obr.12780.
  3. Ronan Gough, Raul Cabrera Rubio, Paula Mary O'Connor, Fiona Crispie, André Brodkorb, Song Miao, Colin Hill, Reynolds Paul Ross, Paul David Cotter, Kanishka Nilaweera and Mary Clare Rea. Oral delivery of nisin in resistant starch based matrices alter the gut microbiota in mice. Frontiers in Microbiology-Antimicrobials, Resistance and Chemotherapy. 2018 Jun 15;9:1186. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2018.01186. eCollection 2018.
  4. Nilaweera KN*, Cabrera-Rubio R, Speakman JR, O' Connor PM, McAuliffe A, Guinane CM, Lawton E, Crispie F, Aguilera M, Stanley M, Boscaini S, Joyce S, Melgar S, Cryan JF, Cotter PD. Whey protein-effects on energy balance link the intestinal mechanisms of energy absorption with adiposity and hypothalamic neuropeptide gene expression. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2017 Jul 1;313(1):E1-E11.
  5. McAllan, L, Speakman, J.R., Cryan, J.F. and Nilaweera, KN*. Whey protein isolate decreases murine stomach weight and intestinal length and alters the expression of Wnt signalling associated genes. British Journal of Nutrition 2015, January; 113 (2); 372-379.